Pc struck Dalian Atkinson with 'unlawful' blows after he was tasered, court told

Dalian Atkinson
Dalian Atkinson Credit: PA Media

A police officer assaulted retired football star Dalian Atkinson when he was “no longer a threat” after he was tasered to the ground by her colleague, a retrial has been told.

Jurors heard Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, of West Mercia Police, struck the 48-year-old several times with a baton “perhaps in anger” and perhaps because she was told to by Pc Benjamin Monk.

Mr Atkinson died in 2016 after an encounter with police officers outside of his father’s home address.

Birmingham Crown Court was told Monk was convicted of manslaughter last year after kicking Mr Atkinson twice, leaving impressions of his laces on his victim’s forehead.

England B international Mr Atkinson, who retired in 2001 after playing for clubs including Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and Spanish side Real Sociedad, died in hospital around an hour after being tasered.

Police constable Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith arriving at a previous hearing Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

Jurors retrying Bettley-Smith were told a previous jury could not reach a decision in respect of a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The 32-year-old probationary officer, known as Ellie, denies the charge, claiming she acted lawfully to protect herself and others.

Opening the case against Bettley-Smith, prosecutor Paul Jarvis said Mr Atkinson, who had health problems including kidney failure, was acting out of character and had smashed a window at his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, in August 2016.

Mr Jarvis told the court: “Dalian Atkinson was more than just a sportsman.

“He was a loving, and much-loved, son, brother, father, partner and friend to those who knew him best.

“He died in the early hours of the morning on Monday August 15 2016, after an encounter with police officers outside of his father’s home address.

“Those officers were Pc Benjamin Monk and Pc Ellie Bettley-Smith.”

The court was told Monk and Bettley-Smith were in a relationship at the time of the death.

Mr Jarvis said it was obvious to witnesses that the balance of Mr Atkinson’s mind was disturbed at the time of the incident, and he “was not on any view acting like himself”.

The scene in Meadow Close following Dalian Atkinson’s death Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

He told the jury on Tuesday: “It is entirely understandable, we accept, that at this moment in time, Benjamin Monk and Ellie Bettley-Smith would have been afraid for their safety.

“Dalian Atkinson was being aggressive towards them, and they were entitled, we accept, to take steps to subdue him.”

But the Crown alleges that Bettley-Smith acted unlawfully after Monk discharged a third taser cartridge, causing Mr Atkinson to fall to the ground.

Mr Jarvis told jurors: “It is not in dispute that at some point during this incident Ellie Bettley-Smith took out her police baton, she extended it and she struck Dalian Atkinson several times to his body with it.

“The prosecution accept that this must have been a frightening experience for a probationary officer in the position of Ellie Bettley-Smith.

“But once Dalian Atkinson was no longer a threat to the officers, the justification for that use of force against him evaporated, we say.

“It is likely that Ellie Bettley-Smith lashed out, perhaps in anger at the fact Dalian Atkinson had scared her so much, or perhaps because Benjamin Monk told her to because he was himself angry.

A tribute to Dalian Atkinson at Villa Park after his death in 2016 Credit: Nick Potts/PA

“But either way, when she hit him she was not, we say, trying to defend either herself or Benjamin Monk or trying to arrest Dalian Atkinson.

“Those blows, we say, were delivered unlawfully by her.”

Following the Crown’s opening speech, defence KC Richard Smith made a brief address to the jury panel.

Mr Atkinson was a good man, Mr Smith said, but had been unrecognisable to those who knew him on the night of his death.

The defence barrister said of Monk and Bettley-Smith: “They were entitled, indeed had a duty in their uniform, to try and restrain him and protect themselves and others.”

Monk had “made his own decision” to kick Mr Atkinson, Mr Smith said.

He said of Bettley-Smith: “She genuinely believed that when Mr Atkinson was on the ground he still posed a threat to her and potentially all others around him – because her perception was that he was still not incapacitated, and moving.

“Her case is she perceived that movement and there was the continuing threat to her and others.

“The use of her baton was necessary and reasonable to protect and to continue to restrain.”

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday.